As demand for the coronavirus vaccine plummets across his state, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) is dangling attractive incentives to convince Ohioans to get vaccinated: $1 million prizes and full-ride scholarships to public colleges.
DeWine announced in a Wednesday statewide televised address that five vaccinated adults would be chosen at random to each receive a $1 million prize as part of the “Ohio Vax-a-Million” lottery.
Drawings for the winners, conducted by the Ohio Lottery, will be held over five consecutive Wednesdays starting May 26, DeWine said. Only Ohio residents who are at least 18 years of age and have been vaccinated before the drawings will be eligible to win.
“The pool of names for the drawing will be derived from the Ohio secretary of state’s publicly available voter registration database,” the governor said, adding that a webpage would be made available for people who are not on the database to sign up for the lottery.
DeWine said a separate incentive would be made available to Ohio children who are vaccinated.
Starting on May 18, vaccinated 12- to 17-year-olds will be able to put their names down via an electronic portal for a chance to win four-year scholarships that will cover tuition, room and board, and books at any of Ohio’s public universities, DeWine said.
The state will give out five scholarships in all. The first will be awarded on May 26.
DeWine acknowledged on Twitter that some may criticize him for the lottery idea ― the money for which will come from existing federal coronavirus relief funds.
“I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money.’ But truly, the real waste at this point in the pandemic ― when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it ― is a life lost to COVID-19,” he said.
WOWK-TV reported Monday that Ohio had turned away about 80% of its weekly vaccine dose allotment from the federal government because of a lack of demand in the state.
Similar demand shortfalls have been reported across the country ― a troubling trend that has prompted other states to come up with their own ideas to incentivize the vaccine.
West Virginia, for example, said last month that vaccinated residents 16 to 35 would be eligible to receive a $100 savings bond.
Maine has been offering prizes like free hunting licenses and retail gift cards to persuade residents to get vaccinated, and New Jersey launched a “Shot and Beer” program, which allows vaccinated residents 21 and older to get a free beer at participating breweries.
In his address Wednesday, DeWine said he would be lifting all pandemic-related health orders on June 2 and encouraged all unvaccinated Ohioans to get a COVID-19 shot before that happens.
“Lifting these orders does not mean the virus is gone. It does not mean we are all safe,” DeWine said, noting that “vaccination is clearly safer ― regardless of age ― than running the risk of getting COVID.”
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